Brunetti looks into an incident that occurred 15 years earlier in which a girl fell or was pushed into a canal, and suffered permanent brain damage as a result of being too long underwater. He spars with Lieutenant Scarpa, manipulates his boss, gets help from signorina Elettra, has some coffee with inspector Vianello, has a nice meal at home, navigates with subconscious ease through the calles of Venice, wonders at its beauty - in short, does the things that he usually does in these novels. That is as it should be; that is in accordance with the first law of sequels: if you are going to write a sequel, the sequel has to be identical to the original in all essential respects. If you are going to write a mystery series, the same rule applies.
About the most positive thing I can say about The Waters of Eternal Youth is that it is not nearly as terrible as the previous couple books in the series. In fact, had this been the first book I had read in this series I would have wanted to read the rest of the series.
But there is a lot not to like, especially for those of us who began reading the series at the beginning, when Donna Leon aimed her guns at the rich and powerful, at the corrupt, at the compliant and complicit press, at the church hierarchy. Now she reserves her ire for African immigrants and tourists. She has Brunetti and Vianello thinking that the northern league (Italian fascists) has a point; maybe not one that they are willing to completely accept, but just maybe.
There are other problems with the book. Leon goes through a bunch of contortions regarding possible surveillance or hacking of the email system at the questura, but then follows up with a really muddled and contrived set of events with Scarpa. Way more setup than was needed for such a pointless excursion. Or was she trying to make a point about ubiquitous surveillance? If so, the whole scenario seems pretty contrived.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just tired of the series, or maybe some of her other recent books have been so awful that I can’t keep an open mind about her writing anymore, and distrust her political and social judgment.